mirror mirror, on the wall… who is the most like birth mom of all?

Today I took my daughter to a playground, as I do all the time, and she saw another young woman there (about 18 or so) who looked a lot like her birth mom, and ran to her, giving her a hug and sitting in her lap. This is actually not unusual for M, as in certain situations she has been known to see a complete stranger, always a woman, but of varying ages and builds and colors, and run up to her and hug her or want to hold her hand. This has happened several times at parks or fairs, but certainly doesn’t happen every time. Maybe once a month or once every couple of months. Except for music class, when M was hugging all of the adults and some of the older children incessantly, even sitting in a different mother’s lap instead of mine. I could tell that the other moms found this strange, but since her behavior in general in the class was not good, we left the class and that was the end of it.

Today, however, M not only wanted to hug the other woman, she preferred her over me. She wanted me to stop pushing her in the swing and this young lady to do it instead. She wanted to be carried everywhere by the other woman. She wanted to go wherever she went. We were walking by some geese with goslings and the goose started hissing at M and coming toward her. Freaked out, she ran towards me with arms outstretched, as per usual, then registered it was me and turned to the other woman instead, wanting to be held. I couldn’t believe it… my daughter wanted a stranger when she was scared? She was almost to me and then consciously chose to reject me in favor of a stranger. She actually cried for several minutes after I took her away from the other woman. I was freaked out and just wanted to leave. I was also feeling heartbroken. This woman did look a lot like Cindy, does that then mean that M would prefer anyone similar to her birth mom to me? Does she feel, deep down, that I’m not her “real mom”?

I’m sure the whole incident has said more about me and my insecurities than it has about M, but I still don’t know what to make of the situation. M does not have any other symptoms related to attachment disorders. These few incidents aside, she always prefers me to everyone else, even other adults (like my mom) that she’s close to, and she cries if I leave her, or at least protests. When she’s hurt or scared she always insists that it be me who comforts her, and asks for me when I’m at work.

It’s not like she isn’t getting enough affection at home. I was already there willing and happy to hold her, push her on the swing, etc. I cuddle with her a lot, hold her while we read or just sitting, pick her up, give kisses, and she is very affectionate in return. I’ve read a lot of adoption books about couples who adopt children and deal with behaviors that include what I’m describing, but M doesn’t display any of the other problematic behavior those children display. From what I can tell, in the 5 weeks between birth and coming to my home she was at least held and given a lot of physical contact, although I know she experienced more trauma when it comes to changes in environment and caregivers than a child in a secure environment during the same time period of development.

I don’t know if I’m worrying too much, but it really disturbed me today. I just can’t get over the feeling that something was really, really wrong. Do non-adopted children from stable homes sometimes display this behavior? Is it meaningful in any way? Should I be having her assessed for something in particular even though I’ve looked over symptoms of attachment disorders and sensory processing disorders and found maybe one or two on lists of 20+ symptoms?

Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

13 thoughts on “mirror mirror, on the wall… who is the most like birth mom of all?”

  1. I’m certainly not an adoption expert, or even a child expert, but it seems to me that M is a well-adjusted little girl who feels secure with and loved by you. Doesn’t seem like she has any issues at all.

    Maybe this was her “primal wound” speaking, and this woman reminded her of her first mom and her reactions to her were based on that cellular, subconscious memory.

    That being said, based on what I know about M, I really don’t think you need to worry or have her tested, etc. I understand where your concern is coming from, for sure. But for all we know, this could be chalked up to toddler antics.

    I hope someone with more expertise on this weighs in.

    1. It’s my intuition that was wigging out this time. The other times with strangers were brief and sort of just an outgoing friendliness. This was a preference for someone else while she was scared and looking for comfort, which I’d never seen before. It cut me to the core. I could just be blinded by my own insecurities as an adopted mom, but I can’t find similar stories by bio parents anywhere.

  2. Wow. I think I would have felt and done the same as you with today’s incident. Some kids are really friendly and comfortable with lots of people and that is okay. I have a friend whose son adores all old women and will go for hugs and sit in laps of strangers who look like grandmas. If there were other signs for attachment issues or trauma, it would make sense to reach out for an evaluation and help. I think you gotta distance yourself from what happened today then come up with a plan for how to handle it if it happens again. Does she do this with her other birth family members when you’ve seen them?

    1. She occasionally hugs, holds hands with, or sits on the laps of strangers, usually mothers or grandmotherly types. It’s always in public places, except in the music class where she was doing it every time. This was the first time she rejected me for a stranger though!

      With her bio family, even her aunt, she is as clingy to me as almost everywhere else, these incidences aside.

  3. As an adoptive, foster, and bio mom, all of my kids have in some form at some time decided someone else may be a better parent than me. So, keep in mind, that the wish for the “perfect parent” is not specific to adoption.

    What can be specific to adoption, is how an adopted child visualizes the perfect parent. Often times, an adopted child will fantasize that their birth parents would have been the perfect parent who would let them stay up late at night or keep them safe from all harm. So if your child doesn’t display other attachment issues, I wouldn’t sweat it unless she persists in this level of behavior.

    While it sucks when a child thinks the neighbor, their friend’s mom, or a random stranger would be better than you, realize that this is not a true judgment of you as a parent.

  4. I can imagine how hard that would be… I wish I had advice to give you, but I just want to say that you are a thoughtful and deliberate parent and I really think you are raising a healthy, happy, and well-adjusted little girl. I know attachment issues are real, but I don’t think there’s evidence of that here. I know this was extreme, but I still think that M is pushing her boundaries and feels comfortable doing that because she knows that you are a steady and secure presence in her life. I know it’s complicated, but I think you’re doing it exactly right.

    1. I appreciate the compliments especially because your blog at one time was my support group/life raft during baby loss and also because I admire you so much as a woman and parent.

      I often wonder what I would have done or how I would feel about an identical situation had it happened with Avalon? Would I be asking the same or different questions? Unfortunately I’m unable to separate from the consternation of loving a dead child and also wanting my living child enough to really get far with it in my mind.

  5. I don’t know if this helps or not, but Dex has done this too. I believe I wrote a whole blog about it awhile back. It is hard. Hard to see the little life we raised, cared for, would do anything for, have done anything for, protected, run to another for comfort. But perhaps it is because they KNOW we will comfort them, they KNOW they are loved by us unconditionally, and are exploring the world and finding the good in others as well. Not that they don’t want us, they just want to be comfortable and loved by others as well.

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